Good raptor watching in the NSW Hunter Region - 14th June 2003

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Subject: Good raptor watching in the NSW Hunter Region - 14th June 2003
From: "Edwin Vella" <>
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 12:15:24 +1000

Today, myself and David Mitford enjoyed yesterday (Sat 14th June 2003) a fantastic day of raptor watching around the Maitland area (approx 160 km easy drive north of Sydney CBD) in the NSW Hunter region. We scored 12 species of raptor for the day and 9 species alone was seen at the East Maitland Waste Disposal Depot. This place has been a fantastic spot for watching raptors for at least well over a year (but probably well beyond that time). Good watching (which should be at your own risk) can be obtained from the western and high end looking down over the tip (well away from the trucks and tractors below). You will of course need permission and you must go through the gates to get to this area.


From spending several hours at the East Maitland WDD we saw a Brown Goshawk, 8 Black and 2 Whistling Kites (the later larger than it?s former cousin), a White-bellied Sea-eagle, a Wedge-tailed Eagle, one of both BLACK FALCON and Brown Falcons, an Australian Hobby and at least one Peregrine Falcon. Most of these raptors put on a good display showing their hunting/scavenging techniques including witnessing the fantastic manoeuvrisms of both the Black and Peregrine Falcons. The Peregrine was seen quickly taking a Noisy Miner (?) from one of the Spotted Gums and seen later with a Whistling Kite on the tail of a Wedge-tailed Eagle). We did not see the Black Falcon until later in the afternoon when we watched this fantastic bird for a few minutes flying low around and over the tip. After becoming more acquainted with this unique bird of prey I find it easy to identify this Falcon by its flight and silhouette alone. It is certainly a more powerful (heavy and broad shouldered) and more skillful raptor than any Brown Falcon and the later species should not be mistaken for it especially in flight.


At the nearby Morpeth Sewerage Treatment Works, we also witnessed a female Swamp Harrier floating low a metre or so above a group of Hardheads and Pink-eared Ducks (a few of the Hardheads escaped by diving under the water, whereas the other ducks quickly swam away). A Brown Goshawk was also seen flying low over this area after all these birds had moved and a White-bellied Sea-eagle was also about. There currently still thousands of ducks in this area, being mainly Hardhead and Grey Teal with lesser numbers of Chestnut Teal, Australasian Shoveler, 100 plus Pink-eared Ducks etc. There are also good numbers of Cormorants (around 100 Great Cormorants) and reasonable numbers of other common water birds.


Around Millers Forest and Duckenfield we also saw an Australian Hobby (perched on power lines), a few Australian Kestrels, a Whistling Kite, a Pacific Heron or two, an over-wintering  Fairy Martin and a small flock of Zebra Finches


Another notable record for this day was seeing and hearing a TORRESSIAN CROW at Mandalong (a little over 100km north of Sydney). This is certainly as far south as I have seen this bird on the NSW coast. It is a bird you would normally encounter and increasingly so, north of the Hunter River. Sooner or later they?ll turn up in Sydney!!


A list of raptors for today and conservative numbers are as follows:


Brown Goshawk (2)

Swamp Harrier (1)

Black Kite (8)

Whistling Kite (5)

White-bellied Sea-eagle (2)

Wedge-tailed Eagle (2)

Black-shouldered Kite (1)

Black Falcon (1)

Brown Falcon (1)

Australian Kestrel (2-3)

Australian Hobby (2)

Peregrine Falcon (1)


Another good day birding.


Edwin Vella


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